Now that I am officially living and working in the UK, I have a UK bank account! Believe me, I felt very official when this finally got sorted (a mere day before the lockdown provisions went into place for London which would have made it a lot harder!) It's still a bit weird to get paid in pounds and pay bills (like phone/internet) in pounds, I still convert everything to US dollars in my head (okay, on Google.)
One reason for that is that I also still have bills to pay in the US such as our mortgage, my Capital One Venture card, and my student loans. So how does one pay US bills in US dollars when one lives in the UK and gets paid in British pounds? Well, it took a while to find the answer!
My British bank does transfers to US banks - they even waive the fee! How nice of them! But when you look at the exchange rate they give you, it is abysmal. Like, I would lose out on hundreds of dollars over time doing that.
We've used PayPal before to pay British friends or have them pay us, so we knew there was something we could do there if I set up a British account linked to my British bank and sent money to my US account linked to my US bank. But that seemed complicated and again the exchange rate was not great.
(We are spoiled when it comes to getting a good exchange rate by Capital One - it almost always matches exactly what Google says!)
Finally, Joan, (our American friend living here for 12+ years now, whom we lived with for a while) told me about what she uses to transfer money between countries, a service called TransferWise.
We did some research and TransferWise is indeed the best option we found. Their fee is incredibly low and their exchange rate matches Google! Plus, by using Joan's link she got a referral credit for sharing it with me. Win, win, win!
I did my first transfer earlier this month and it was super easy to use and the money showed up quicker than I expected. I set up the transfer on a Friday (the day I got paid) and had it in my US bank account by Tuesday. The account was easy to set up, though it did require verification with a photo of my passport.
From now on, on the first of every month (when I get paid) I will be using TransferWise to send the amount I need to my US bank account. Eventually I probably won't need to do this anymore, but while we still have one foot in each country it is super handy to have an easy and economical way to transfer money from one currency to another.
If you ever have need to do this (it works in a ton of different countries/currencies) then I would highly recommend you set up your own account with TransferWise! If you do so, I would appreciate it if you use my referral link. Full disclosure: For every 3 people I refer who send over £200 I will receive £75. But it doesn't cost you anything extra to use my link!
Referral Link for TransferWise: https://transferwise.com/invite/u/bethanyw128
So there you have it, one more nifty financial trick I've found for being an expat. I hope it helps someone out there!